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Realism, Truthmakers, and Language: A study in meta-ontology and the relationship between language and metaphysics

MILLER, JAMES,TIMOTHY,MATTHEW (2014) Realism, Truthmakers, and Language: A study in meta-ontology and the relationship between language and metaphysics. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Metaphysics has had a long history of debate over its viability, and substantivity. This thesis explores issues connected to the realism question within the domain of metaphysics, ultimately aiming to defend a realist, substantive metaphysics by responding to so-called deflationary approaches, which have become prominent, and well supported within the recent metametaphysical and metaontological literature.

To this end, I begin by examining the changing nature of the realism question. I argue that characterising realism and anti-realism through theories of truth unduly places epistemology prior to ontology, and is unwarranted in assuming a non-neutrality between theories of truth and positions within the realism debate. I therefore propose a characterisation of realism and anti-realism understood through truthmaking. This produces a suitable working characterisation of realism that will be used within the remainder of this project.

In the second section, I trace the historical influences upon current deflationary approaches to metaphysics, most prominently those of Carnap, and Putnam. I argue that Quine’s supposed attack on Carnap’s anti-metaphysical thought fails, and show how current deflationary thought, most prominently exhibited by Hirsch, came to focus on linguistically derived concerns over the substantivity of metaphysics.

In the third section, I outline a number of issues for the deflationist, and defend the coherency and legitimacy of the unrestricted existential quantifier. Focusing on the linguistic aspect of deflationism, I argue that the conception of language that the deflationist relies upon lacks suitable empirical and theoretical support within linguistics and other related domains. Furthermore, I suggest that linguistic analysis in fact supports the claim that the quantifier carries no inherent restrictions. This restores our ability to suitably posit the unrestricted existential quantifier, as a quantifier wherein the domain is only restricted by metaphysically substantive restrictions. Through this, I argue that metaphysics is a substantive domain of discourse. Lastly, I sketch a positive account of how, under an empirically and theoretically justified conception of language, metaphysics can be coherently held to be a realist, substantive enterprise, contra claims that hold that the nature of language inherently prevents metaphysics being considered to be a substantive domain of discourse.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Language; Metaphysics; Linguistics; Metametaphysics; Metaontology; Truthmaking
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Jun 2014 10:31

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